Something Really Scary at the Movies: The Popcorn!


There’s nothing quite like movie theater popcorn. The heady smell fills your nostrils tempting you before you even reach the ticket window. According to industry group the Popcorn Board, “popcorn is among the healthiest — and tastiest — snacks around.  It’s a whole grain food that’s low in calories and fat and it’s a complex carbohydrate.” Don’t you feel virtuous for passing on the Junior Mints!

Actually, there is something like movie theater popcorn. How about a half rack of Ruby Tuesday’s barbecued spareribs and a scoop of Häagen-Dazs? That’s the nutritional equivalent of a medium popcorn at Regal Theaters, the nation’s largest chain. Order the combo with a medium soda and you’ve consumed something comparable to three McDonalds Quarter Pounders  topped with twelve pats of butter. And all that is before you have added any extra drizzles of buttery topping.

One big problem with theater popcorn is the oil used to pop it. Regal Theaters and number 2 chain AMC  both use coconut oil. At 90% saturated fat, coconut oil is way ahead of even butter (51%) and lard (39%) as an artery-clogger. But it’s not just about the oil. Third-largest theater operator Cinemark pops its corn in heart-healthy canola oil (8% saturated fat). While its popcorn won’t clog your arteries like the other chains’, Cinemark popcorn is no better when it comes to calories (760 in a medium, v. 1,200 at Regal and 590 at AMC) and has a whole lot more salt, probably to make up for the less flavorful oil (1,240 mg. to Regal’s 980 and AMC’s 330).

What’s a movie-goer to do?

Maybe we should forget about the popcorn. And the candy? Titanic-sized boxes of chocolate varieties like Raisinets and Sno-Caps can have your day’s worth of saturated fat, a pack of fruity Nerds candy harbors about a cup sugar, and a bag of Reese’s Pieces is the fat and calorie equivalent of a 16 oz.T-bone with a buttered baked potato.

Granted, you’re not looking to fill your daily nutritional requirements at the concession stand. But you’re also not exactly spending the following 2 hours climbing Everest.

Small, please, no buttery topping. That’s as close as you’re going to get to the Popcorn Board’s version of a healthy, low-fat, wholegrain food.

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4 Responses to Something Really Scary at the Movies: The Popcorn!

  1. Lisa says:

    Sorry Janice, but you really don’t know what youre talking about. Coconut oil is one of the the healthiest oils there is. Saturated fats “sound” scary, but when you actually break down and understand the science behind it (and how the body uses it) it’s not that scary at all. ( )I suggest you do some research before you put bad information out on the Internet.

  2. Since I don’t go to the movies that often, I take my chances with the buttery popcorn, but it is good for people to realize what they are getting. You could take a small shaker of parmesan and have a healthier and tasty option!

  3. The title is so funny…Yes this is a frightening thing, especially since our kids just eat it up as a must with a movie:( Exceptional post!You do not have a share button that I can see, but I would love to share a link to this…If you approve please email me…
    and send the link. I would really love to add the link to our social sites:)

  4. So glad you brought some attention to this. Movie popcorn is the equivalent of a McDonald fry. Flavor does not trump the depth of disgustingness held in each bite. I’m a HUGE popcorn fan. Love the stuff. Movie popcorn is so salty I’m left feeling more dessicated than an Egyptian mummy. Mark Bittman has some great spice blend recipes to sprinkle on popcorn. Definitely recommend them.

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